Externally, the Ottawa Senators are saying all the right things. Every game head coach D.J. Smith is re-iterating there are “no excuses” for losing. Brady Tkachuk said you have to have “a next man up mentality” after the team was shut out 4-0 by Dan Vladar and the Calgary Flames Sunday evening.
The game marked the second time, the club was shut out in three games. Thursday’s shutout loss at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings marked the first time the Senators were held without a goal since February 22/20 at the Bell Centre in Montreal – a stretch of 77 games.
But when your leading point-getter Drake Batherson becomes the club’s 10th member to be added to Covid-19 Protocol just two hours prior to game time, one couldn’t blame the Senators if they cried “Uncle.”
“The game plan, the lines, our power play, he leads our team in points, so that’s a huge loss for us. Certainly losing (Shane) Pinto the night before – it handcuffs our depth, but it’s the NHL and you’ve got to keep running with what you’ve got,” Smith noted during his postgame Zoom availability.
The question must be raised, how was Batherson permitted to play Saturday versus the Pittsburgh Penguins – a game in which the Nova Scotia native recorded four points (two goals, two assists)?
Well, that answer is easy but confusing. All Senators’ players and staff members are given a PCR test daily when they enter the Canadian Tire Centre. Batherson’s morning test received a Covid-19 positive result. That test result was rendered after a short time.
Hours later, Batherson was given two subsequent tests – each containing negative results. This allowed him to play in the game.
However, Sunday morning, Batherson once again tested positive. At that point, the doctors pulled him from the lineup due to safety concerns, not only for Batherson himself but also for his teammates and the opposing team.
The Senators head coach explained the testing process.
“There’s different tests. There’s the Sera test which gives it (the result) to you in 30 minutes. Then there’s the PCR test that you get the next morning. Either/or is supposed to be as reliable, sometimes one is a positive or false positive and you have to wait. There is some jockeying there, but at the end of the day, it’s all about keeping the players safe – the families safe. The doctors are trying to do everything to stop this, but it’s unfortunate. It just keeps coming.”
Ep 12: Biting, Montreal, COVID, and Penguins Sale Updateby Full Press Coverage on December 1, 2021 at 5:52 pm
Mike, Jim, and Chris […]
However, when is enough, actually enough? The San Jose Sharks had seven players plus their head coach Bob Boughner in Protocol for almost two full weeks, but their outbreak was mainly all at one time, so the Sharks roster wasn’t a work in progress on a daily basis.
The Senators’ situation is slightly different in that they’ve had one or two players added each day, causing havoc to their roster.
The team doesn’t practice as dictated by the NHL. They’re shuttling players back and forth daily between their AHL affiliate in Belleville. There’s no possibility to gain team/line chemistry. They’re not practicing special teams and goalies aren’t getting reps.
To add insult to injury literally, Erik Brannstrom who was finally given an opportunity to display where his game lies on the Senators’ blue line, broke his hand blocking a shot Thursday.
Saturday, centre Shane Pinto made his much-anticipated return to the lineup after missing nine games due to a shoulder injury only to re-aggravate it while taking a draw. Pinto’s prognosis doesn’t appear to be a good one. He is still being evaluated.
The Senators now have 10 players plus associate coach Jack Capuano in Covid-19 Protocol and have a game in Newark Tuesday. As of the present, this game is still a go, but what if another team member tests positive? There are only a handful of players available for recall currently in Belleville.
In addition; if a Senators’ player who’s non-Canadian receives a positive test result in New Jersey, that player will not be allowed to re-enter Canada for at least 14 days and two negative tests.
Due to their ever-expanding roster, the Senators’ payroll is now just shy of $75 million – ranking 22nd league-wide.
Senators’ d-man Michael Del Zotto who’s been a healthy scratch on occasion early this season is now being leaned on to supply veteran leadership. He is doing just that on and off the ice. Del Zotto is killing penalties and is fixture on the second power-play unit along with rookie Lassi Thomson.
The 31-year old posted one goal, one assist in Saturday’s 6-3 victory over the Penguins.
Del Zotto is also raising concern, as each day the Senators arrive at their workplace, there’s an abhorrent risk of Covid transmission, especially after players such as Batherson and Nikita Zaitsev‘s test results have fluctuated on an hour by hour basis.
Zaitsev was declared to play Thursday morning only to be pulled from the lineup 30 minutes prior to the warmup.
“That’s the scary part, how quickly it changes. We’re testing numerous times per day. There’s negative tests, then in a couple of hours someone is positive. Obviously, this is no joke. I can’t stress enough priority on players and staff, their health and their families too. Guys have little kids at home. As much as hockey is our job, is our business, there are things bigger than hockey – it’s your health.”